Saturday, August 05, 2006

Saudi Muslim cleric condemns Hezbollah

The Jerusalem Post reports,
A top Saudi Sunni cleric, whose ideas inspired Osama bin Laden, issued a religious edict Saturday disavowing the Shi'ite guerrilla group Hizbullah, evidence that a rift remained among Muslims over the fighting in Lebanon.

Hizbullah, which translates as "the party of God," is actually "the party of the devil," said Sheik Safar al-Hawali, whose radical views made the al-Qaida leader one of his followers in the past.

"Don't pray for Hizbullah," he said in the fatwa posted on his Web site.

The edict, which reflects the historical stand of strict Wahhabi doctrine viewing Shi'ite Muslims as heretics, follows a similar fatwa from another popular Saudi cleric Sheik Abdullah bin Jibreen two weeks into the conflict with Israel.

"It is not acceptable to support this rejectionist party (Hizbullah), and one should not fall under its command, or pray for its victory," bin Jibreen said at the time. That fatwa set off a maelstrom across the Arab world, with other leaders and people at the grass roots level imploring Muslims to put aside differences to support the fight against Israel.
There's no way to predict how seriously this fatwa will be taken. Last week, al Qaeda's number two man, Ayman al-Zawahri, called on Muslims everywhere to join Hezbollah's fight against Israel.

Al-Hawali is not exactly a peacenik, though. In 2005 Iraq television aired a segment in which a captured Iraqi terrorist named Saleh Al-Jubouri said that al-Hawali sent his group communiques calling on them to kill Americans and Iraqi policemen.

Al-Hawali was jailed by the Saudi regime for five years in the 1990s for criticizing the kingdom, especially for giving permission to the US to place troops inside the kingdom to oppose the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein in 1990.

In 2004, three thousand Muslim intellectuals signed an international petition demanding that "prominent Muslim clerics known to be inciting others to violence to be tried by an international court on charges of encouraging terrorism." Safar al-Hawali was named in the petition.

Saudi clerics are all Sunni Muslims and consider Shia (Shiite) Muslims to be heretical. Hezbollah is dominated by Shia Muslims, backed by almost exclusively Shia Iran. There is a widespread fear among Sunni Arabs that Iran is growing too powerful and seeks not merely to destroy Israel but to dominate Arab countries. Exacerbating this fear is the fact that Iranians are not Arabs; they are Persians.

For most Sunnis Arabs, then, Iranians are outside the pale for two reasons. One, they are the wrong kind of Muslim. Two, they are foreign to Arabic culture. In Arab culture the strongest unifying force is Islam and the second tribe and family. To Arabs, Iranians fail on the second count and most would say on the first.

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